Due to the widespread construction of high density apartments and townhouses there has also been an increase in the construction of balconies. Balconies are susceptible to water damage which can lead to damage to the internal elements of the building.
The defective construction of balconies has become an increasingly common dispute affecting owners’ corporations. In this article we look at some common defects and a case that illustrates the issues facing owners and builders if a dispute arises.
Defects with balconies can arise as a result of poor architectural design, defective construction by builders or a poor maintenance plan.
For example, an inadequate slope that does not drain water properly, or drains it toward the building can lead to water ponding on the balcony.
When water ponds on a balcony it might bring to light issues with the waterproofing membrane at the door threshold or on the balcony itself. For example, waterproof flashing may have been omitted or damaged during the construction of the balconies.
Finally, balcony leaks might be caused by issues such as render cracking caused by foundation movement as a result of lack of property maintenance or a proper building maintenance plan.
Disputes in relation to balcony defects can be complicated due to the technical nature of the disputes and usually cannot be satisfactorily resolved without expert evidence as to the cause of the defects.
The case of Guney & Ors v CFM Property Group Pty Ltd (Domestic Building)  VCAT 514, involved a dispute between 4 owners of townhouse units and the builder of those units, regarding the alleged defective construction of the balconies. The owners alleged that water leaks in the balconies and exterior cladding had occurred.
The parties reached a settlement of the dispute at mediation whereby it was agreed that the builder would rectify the defective balconies within a certain timeframe. The builder failed to undertake the rectification works, over a period of three years.
The owners pursued their claim before the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
And each party retained a building consultant who provided expert evidence before the Tribunal.
The Tribunal found that the owners had given the builder ample opportunity to rectify the defective balconies and that it would be unreasonable to require the owners to give the builder a further opportunity. Instead, the Tribunal assessed the owners’ damages as the costs they would incur in engaging an alternative builder to attend to the rectifications and in a later decision awarded costs against the builder.
Building defects can have serious detrimental effects on the use, enjoyment and value a property. It can often be difficult to identify the party responsible for rectifying balcony defects. Without expert legal advice, it is possible that the costs of the defect will be unfairly borne by an incorrect party.
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